A.2. Getting Help from FileMaker, Inc.

FileMaker's Web site has the usual marketing materials you'd expect from a great software company. But there's lots of substance there, too. Look for "Support" in its main navigation menu, where you'll find free and fee-based help.

A.2.1. Updaters & Downloads

Like most programs, FileMaker's latest software versions are those found on the software company's Web site. You'll find Software Updates and support files, like localized language packs at www.filemaker.com/support/downloads/index.html. Trial software and development tools, including an XLST library and a list of recently released plug-ins, are also available from this page.

If your installation is missing some (or all) of its templates, click the Starter Solutions link to download new copies. You can also download a free, ready-made business solution called FileMaker Business Tracker. It's an invoicing system that lets you track sales, contacts, and product data. Even if your business doesn't do sales, you'll find this product useful for study purposes. It was written as a demo file for FileMaker 7, and it's full of developer tricks of the trade you can analyze. When you've mastered all the secrets there, you're ready to leave the monastery, Grasshopper.

A.2.2. Documentation and Publications

You can reach this list from the Downloads page above, but it's so jammed-packed that it deserves a headline all its own.

  • Product Documentation. You'll find all the documentation that came with your product here, plus any updates to those guides. There are also tutorial files and some extra guides on topics like security, Windows 2000 Terminal Services, and Citrix.
  • White Papers. Here you'll find shorter papers on specific subjects, like migrating your older files to .fp7 format and custom Web publishing with server-side scripting. If you want to make the case for FileMaker's power and simplicity to higher-ups in your organization, check out the Industry sections, where you'll find such topics as Information Management and Cost of Ownership studies on FileMaker.
  • Technical Briefs. These are usually longer documents than the white papers, so they cover similar topics in more depth. Unlike product documentation, which has explanations and step-by-step instructions, these works focus more on methods and benefits of FileMaker's newest technologies, like improved security and the new server and web publishing models.
  • FileMaker Resource Guide. The Resource Guide lists FileMaker's complete product line, third-arty products, trainers, and consultants.
  • Knowledge Base. Find FAQs, bug alerts, workarounds, errata, and the official word on topics that don't fit into FileMaker's other document categories. You can either search the Knowledge Base with keywords, or peruse the most recent topics to see what's new. A button at the bottom of each page lets you request email notification if the page is updated, so you can stay on top of developments with ease. A clickable list of related topics helps you wander around in case the main topic didn't fit the bill.

A.2.3. Technical Support

FileMaker supports the current version of its software and one version prior. If your files are older than that, you'll need to get help from a third party, usually a consultant or a user group. See the section below to find out how to find those animals.

You can't start making databases until FileMaker's installed, so everybody who purchases FileMaker gets unlimited tech support phone calls regarding installation. Plus, you get one free troubleshooting call for each product you buy, which is helpful when you have a bunch of staffers on FileMaker Pro, a copy or two of Server and your very own copy of FileMaker Pro Advanced. The tech support is free, but you'll pay for the phone call, so break out those free long-distance minutes. Dial (408) 727-9004 for the free stuff.

Paid tech support is available by calling (800) 965-9090. Get out your credit card when you call, then decide how you want to pay. You can choose a $45 flat fee and they'll solve a single issue for you or you can roll the dice (and get multiple problems solved at once) by choosing the $3 per minute rate, with a $75 maximum. Phone tech support is available 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT weekdays.

Premium 800 Support lets you pre-pay $180 for a five-pack of access codes that let you make the calls when the trouble arises. Codes are good for one year. Call (800) 325-2747 for the bulk discount.

Professional Support costs $899 per year. You nominate one person from your company who can call a special toll-free number as many times as needed for twelve months. Add $699 for each additional person who needs the same access. Download the order form at www.filemaker.com/support/prof_support_info.html.

Note: Technical Support deals with technical problems, like when a feature isn't working as advertised and you need help figuring out why. Teaching you how to create databases or writing your calculations and scripts for you are not considered technical support issues.

File corruption isn't common with FileMaker, but it's devastating when it happens. FileMaker offers file recovery services at $100 per table. Go to www.filemaker.com/support/technical_support.html and scroll to the bottom of the page for more information.

A.2.4. FileMaker Applications

If you find yourself without the time or inclination to create a new database, you may be able to purchase one of these ready-made systems, professionally designed by FileMaker staff. Like FileMaker's Starter Solutions (aka templates), FileMaker Applications are fully unlocked and customizable. But they go a lot further than the Starter Solutions, and you may find that they meet many of your needs straight out of the box. Prices range from $69 to $448. These applications let you manage tasks like employment recruiting, tracking donors and donations, managing meetings, and work requests. See www.filemaker.com/products/applications/index.html for a complete list. Click the link for each solution to get more information about each product and to see online demos.

A.2.5. FileMaker Solutions Alliance (FSA)

The FSA is a bit of a hybrid. It's run by FileMaker, Inc. and to be sure, you pay annual dues to be a member, but you become a part of the developer community when you do. For the casual or in-house developer, one of the most practical benefits is TechTalk, a members-only email list where you can ask questions and share your own experiences. The old hands are willing to share their wisdom with newcomers. The list is very active, with upwards of a hundred messages a day, particularly when a topic sparks developers' interest. (The list is moderated, so it rarely veers off track.)

Other FSA benefits include access to exclusive technical information, invitations to exclusive technical briefings and the annual meeting at the developer's convention, and discounted or even free products. There are four levels of membership, with increasing benefits (you can be listed in the FSA Directory, and a free copy of FileMaker Pro Advanced, for example). If you're planning to become an independent consultant, membership in the FSA is invaluable.

Part I: Introduction to FileMaker Pro

Your First Database

Organizing and Editing Records

Building a New Database

Part II: Layout Basics

Layout Basics

Creating Layouts

Advanced Layouts and Reports

Part III: Multiple Tables and Relationships

Multiple Tables and Relationships

Advanced Relationship Techniques

Part IV: Calculations

Introduction to Calculations

Calculations and Data Types

Advanced Calculations

Extending Calculations

Part V: Scripting

Scripting Basics

Script Steps

Advanced Scripting

Part VI: Security and Integration


Exporting and Importing

Sharing Your Database

Developer Utilities

Part VII: Appendixes

Appendix A. Getting Help

FileMaker Pro 8. The Missing Manual
FileMaker Pro 8: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 0596005792
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 176

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